Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are getting a third ambulance.
The lack of ambulances stationed in Maple Ridge – just two to serve a population of almost 94,000, including Pitt Meadows – was a significant issue in 2015.
It was highlighted by local brain cancer patient Matt Kelso, who organized a petition he reported at more than 8,000 names calling for increased ambulance service. It had 3,134 names online, and he collected thousands of more sitting outside local grocery stores.
In February, the province announced it was adding eight new ambulances and hiring 34 paramedics for Lower Mainland cities. But not Maple Ridge, at the time.
On Thursday, however, Premier Christy Clark visited Ridge Meadows Hospital to announce the addition of a third ambulance.
“In a life-threatening situation, every second counts,” said Premier Christy Clark. “As Maple Ridge continues to grow, a strong and growing economy gives us the ability to ensure services grow along with it.”
The vehicle is being put into service immediately, with available staff, while recruitment for permanent, full-time staff gets underway.
The ambulance will be operating on a regular, full-time basis within three months, according to the province.
Maple Ridge’s two ambulances have experienced one of the highest increases in calls for service of any city in B.C.
The number of high acuity, or lights-and-siren calls have gone up by 36 per cent in three years, from a monthly average of 139 in 2013 to 190 this year.
The premier also announced another ambulance to serve Coquitlam.
The new ambulance is the result of a detailed independent analysis of ambulance call data and demand projections in the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria.
The report was released in February as part of B.C. Emergency Health Services plan to improve services.
Maple Ridge was identified as one of the areas of need.
B.C. Emergency Health Services added two ambulances earlier this year in Langley. They were intended to help alleviate pressures in Maple Ridge, said the health ministry.
“We committed to the residents of Maple Ridge to closely monitor and increase our ambulance services as necessary, and we are honouring that promise,” Health Minister Terry Lake said of the new ambulance.
“This additional resource is part of a larger plan to transform how we can best serve the emergency medical needs of patients in British Columbia.”
Another ambulance will help Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents feel safer in their communities, said Doug Bing, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA.
“An ambulance is there in a crisis – a lifeline for the community, and quite often the difference between life and death.”
Marc Dalton, Maple Ridge-Mission MLA, is pleased to see the province conducting analysis and making improvements based on data.
“Based on sound analytics, Maple Ridge will certainly benefit from having additional paramedics closer to home.”
Bronwyn Barter, provincial president of CUPE 873 which represents paramedics, said the new ambulance is “a step in the right direction.” The announcement came as a surprise to the union.
She said the union did a report seven months ago showing it was understaffed.
“Obviously, we need more. There’s lots of pressure in the Lower Mainland,” she said, and noted that the new car could be pulled out of the Maple Ridge to answer calls elsewhere.
The Provincial Health Services Authority and B.C. Emergency Health Services will monitor services where it has added new ambulances, and work with government to identify where further improvements are needed.